Young Nigerians have become too engrossed in the western culture and as a result have forgotten the VERY NIGERIAN trends. Trends like tribal marks and tattoos have, these days, been referred to as archaic. As fascinating as this ideology is, many forget that the OLD-FASHIONED markings of those years, are the EN VOGUE tattoos of these days.
In days past, tribal marks and tattoos were seen as a major part of the Nigerian identity – whether Igbo, Yoruba or Hausa. It was easier to identify a Nigerian by virtue of the kind of tribal marks/tattoos they carried. To a large extent, the individual’s personality and family without asking questions.
Yoruba people have some of the most definite marks (Check our previous post: Tribal marks of the Yorubas; Its Peculiarity) but the Igbo people real stake a claim to that title. This form of art may be fading away rapidly but it is quintessential in the Igbo culture and Nigeria’s to a large extent.
Also pronounced Uli, it was usually practiced by women, who would decorate each other’s bodies with dark dyes to prepare for village events. These designs would last about a week. The use of uri was not limited to the human body. Igbo women would also paint murals of designs on the walls of compounds and houses.
These generally used four colors which could be created from natural bases easily found in the area; black, reddish brown, yellow and white. It is used to paint the hands, legs and body.
Worn mainly by Igbo men, the Ichi mark was and “maybe” still is to the “Nze na Ozo” society. These were men of the highest social class in the Igbo community.
Its wearers were authorized to perform ritual cleansing of abominations and to confer titles on people. People with facial marks were regarded as Nri men and were less likely to be taken as slaves. There are two styles; the Nri style worn in the Awka-Nri areas, and the Agbaja style worn in the Awgwu and Nkanu areas.
In the Nri style, the carved line ran from the center of the forehead down to the chin. A second line ran across the face, from the right cheek to the left. This was repeated to obtain a pattern meant to imitate the rays of the sun. While in the Agbaja style, circles and semicircular patterns are added to the initial incisions to represent the moon.
It is a system of symbols indigenous to what is now southeastern Nigeria. The symbols are at least several centuries old—early forms appeared on excavated pottery as well as what are most likely ceramic stools and headrests from the Calabar region. Many of the signs deal with love affairs; those that deal with warfare and the sacred are kept secret. Nsibidi is used on wall designs, calabashes, metals (such as bronze), leaves, swords, and tattoos. Nsibidi was and is still a means of transmitting Ekpe symbolism.